Marc Maron, comedian and host of the garage-based podcast WTF, scored the interview of a lifetime with President Obama–and Maron wasn’t the only one in disbelief.
“If I thought to myself that when I was in college that I’d be in a garage a couple of miles away from where I was living doing an interview as president with a comedian–it’s not possible to imagine,” Obama says to Maron.
The hour-long interview touches on a host of issues both on personal and professional levels for Obama, but the most salient sound bites pertain to the the increasingly fragile state of race relations in America. From police actions under intense scrutiny to the recent massacre in Charleston, SC, the topic of race and how we view it and discuss it as a society has become impossible to ignore. Below are Obama’s most important quotes time-stamped from the interview:
On the shooting in Charleston, SC
I’ve done this way too often. During the course of my presidency, it feels as if, couple times a year I end up having to speak to the country and to speak to a particular community about a devastating loss…It’s not enough just to feel bad–there are actions that could be taken to make events like this less likely. And one of those actions we could take would be to enhance some basic, commonsense gun-safety laws.
The one thing he’s learned as president
I don’t know that this is something I learned, but it is something that has been confirmed: The American people are overwhelmingly good, decent, generous people…Everybody that I meet believes in a lot of the same things…They believe in honesty and family and community and looking out for one another. They very rarely think in terms of, “Well, that’s a Republican, so I don’t like that person” or “That’s a Democrat–I don’t like that person.” That’s not how folks organize their lives. So that always gives me hope…The problem is that there’s big gap between who we are as a people and how our politics expresses itself. And part of that has to do with gerrymandering and super PACs and lobbyists and a media that is so splintered now that we’re not in a common conversation.
Expectations of change vs. the reality of it
You can’t turn 50 degrees. And it’s not just because of corporate lobbyists. It’s not just because of big money. It’s because societies don’t turn 50 degrees. Democracies certainly don’t turn 50 degrees. And that’s been true on issues of race, that’s been true on issues of the environment, that’s true on issues of discrimination. As long as they’re turning in the right direction and we’re making progress, then government is working sort of the way it’s supposed to.
The state of race relations in American now…
Racism–we are not cured of. It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say “nigger” in public–that’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened  to 300 years prior.
…and how to fix it
I’m less interested in having an ideological conversation than I am looking at what has worked in the past and applying it and scaling up. What is required is a sense on a part of all of us that what happens to those kids matters to me, even if I never meet them.
Listen to the podcast in full here.